Manufacturing in the U.S. has undergone quite a few changes over the last 40 years. The 1970s have long been heralded as the peak for American output and productivity, and the ensuing years saw a large number of factories and work move to foreign shores. In fact, NPR reported the U.S. claimed 30 percent of the total manufacturing activity in the 1980s; that number has dropped to 17 percent today.
However, that doesn't mean that the sector is floundering. In fact, there are several positive key indicators that point to a strengthening manufacturing industry. At the same time, one of the big components of today's industrial sector is its ability to leverage data collection tools and analytics.
What Does the American Manufacturing Industry Look Like Today?
Currently, China is usually the dominant figure in discussions of global manufacturing, but that's not entirely accurate. While the Asian country's manufacturing sector has been growing faster than the U.S. during the past decade, output from American organizations has increased more quickly than all of Europe, as well as Japan. Research and development plays a big role in the pace at which companies can produce and distribute goods. Electronics and pharmaceutical manufacturers are those spending the most on R&D, while other countries invest in machinery, NPR explained.
As a result, technology is increasingly important for organizations in the manufacturing sector. The ability to collect and analyze data is one of the chief differentiators for companies looking to gain a stronger foothold in the market. Not only does it give manufacturers a better idea of what their processes look like on a broad scale, but it also allows them to better manage production through insights gained through analysis.
What Impact Can Big Data Have?
The research and consulting firm Accenture worked with GE to release the "Industrial Internet Insights for 2015," which looks at the role of big data and analytics in industrial settings like manufacturing. There are signs more companies understand the importance of data collection solutions and using the information drawn from these systems to optimize operations.
According to the study, 62 percent of companies involved in the research use network-wide technologies to help integrate large amounts of information in disparate locations. For instance, managing locations that are off-site, such as places for energy exploration.
One resource that organizations can take advantage of is software to manage remote warehouses. Modern manufacturing and distribution centers are spread across the globe, making it difficult for companies to have clear insight into their operations at all times. Increasingly, 24/7 management and data collection is necessary to ensure accuracy and streamlined production. In the white paper, "Solving the Remote Warehouse Dilemma with High Availability Distributed Solutions," RFgen outlines the challenges of managing remote warehouses and offers solutions to this problem.
The most effective warehouse software solutions will allow manufacturers to continue collecting data even when an ERP software isn't connected. This is one of the big issues facing manufacturers, according to the Accenture study. Thirty-six percent of manufacturers indicated there are systemic walls within their technologies that don't allow data collection and correlation across various departments.
The American manufacturing sector continues to grow, but data collection and analysis will be central to long-term success.